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9 Questions About The Debt Ceiling, Answered

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[embedded content] NPR via YouTube

It’s time again for one of Washington’s favorite manufactured crises.

The U.S. surpassed the current debt ceiling in March and is now using what are called “extraordinary measures” to keep the government paying its bills. But that can’t go on forever. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell says he wants a vote on the debt ceiling to happen before the Senate goes on its August recess, but other key items on Congress’ list — health care, tax overhaul — remain untackled, and the window to get them done is closing.

No one is quite sure how bad the economic effects of hitting the debt ceiling could be, but they’re potentially catastrophic enough that every time this fight comes up, it’s a big deal. Here’s what you might not know about the debt limit (or might have forgotten about it since we last talked about this as a nation in 2015):

1) What is the debt ceiling?

Let’s start with the U.S. government’s debt. Currently, the total U.S. national debt is around $19.844 trillion, or around 104 percent of GDP.

That’s money the U.S. government owes to people who have bought its bonds and other debt

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